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The New York Times is an institution in the U.S. and the World section of the Times is one of the most read in the U.S. and in the world, with its digital subscription base growing yearly. 

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Police officers stand guard following explosion which killed 21 people on Tuesday, including two campaign officials. (Reuters)


Twenty-One Killed in Bombing in Kabul 


(Kabul) - Twenty-one people, including four Kabul security officers were killed in a popular restaurant by a car bomb, officials said. Two of the individuals at the restaurant were involved in campaigns in the Afghanistan Presidential election. The bombing comes just days after a similar attack occurred in Kandahar on a marketplace which killed four people. The Taliban have threatened to kill anyone who takes part in the upcoming elections and these attacks come as campaigning has ramped up in recent weeks. 


Among the dead were two children, according to local officials. According to the United Nations, car bombs -- or 'improvised explosive devices' -- have killed 225 civilians this year alone in Afghanistan alone. "The situation in Afghanistan, as the election nears closer, is only likely to become more volatile," James Olliver, a former military official, told the Associated Press, "the Taliban is going to continue these attacks and continue to try and deter the election process." 



Kim Jong-Un will prepare for his first trip as North Korean Leader. (Associated Press)


Kim Jong-Un Set to Visit Russia in January


(Moscow) - North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un will visit Moscow and Russian President Vladmir Putin at the end of the year, according to a press statement sent out by the Russian government. According to officials in Moscow, President Putin will discuss a "wide variety" of issues with the North Korean leader. The meeting will come only about a year after North Korea conducted their third underground missile test. Analysts have predicted that the trip is an attempt for Kim Jong-Un to become closer to Russia and Putin, as China openly condemned the most recent missile tests as "provocative behavior" while still maintaining economic and food aid. North Korea has continued to suffer through a food crisis, with the U.N Food Agency saying water scarcity in the nation is "an increasing threat to food security" in North Korea. "North Korea will get about 300 tons of food, give or take, in government imports for 2014," the Food Agency representative, Reginald Bradley, told Associated Press, "and they need to be importing around 700,000 tons, given their current expected production rates." The situation in North Korea is expected only to get worse as sanctions imposed on them make it hard economically to survive, as food aid from China doesn't cover what is needed for food security for the reclusive nation. 


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Israeli soldier takes post after attack leaves four soldiers dead in Alon Svhut (Reuters)


Four Israeli Soldiers Killed in West Bank


(Tel Aviv) – According to officials in Israel, with the government confirming, four soldiers were shot and killed in a fire-fight with Hamas fighters this weekend. The killings occurred in the Alon Svhut settlement in the West Bank, a controversial settlement considered illegal by many in the international community, which Israel disputes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, claiming the soldiers were killed while acting against Hamas fighters, whom he says were “in the act of attacking civilians” in the area.


Experts say the attack is a concern due to the bold claims made by the Prime Minister, whom may look to strike back at Hamas, through Gaza. “We’ve seen it before in Israel, with Palestine in the middle, and Hamas being provocateurs,” said Sam Taylor, a former Defense Department official and visiting Stanford Professor, “this is another sign of a potential clash between Hamas and Israeli forces.” The tension comes at a pivotal time in the Middle East, as the war in Afghanistan rages on, al-Qaeda attacks are occurring more often, and terrorist groups are thriving amid political turmoil in various countries, from Libya to Syria.



Students in Hong Kong begin sit-in protests against the government after crackdown of memorial services for Tiananmen Square (New York Times)


Demonstrations in Hong Kong Amid Tiananmen Square Memorial


(Hong Kong) Demonstrators in Hong Kong have taken to the streets in protest of the Chinese government breaking up memorial services for the killings that occurred during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The Chinese government has been known to guard against public displays of mourning during anniversaries of the protest.


The demonstrations come as the National People’s Congress in China seeks to make a decision on proposed electoral reforms for the Hong Kong Chief Executive election and Legislative Council Election. The Chinese government has sought out reforms which would require a screening of candidates by a nominating committee approved by the National People’s Congress.


Critics have said the proposal by the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) – a party largely seen as loyal to Beijing – would be tantamount to allowing the Communist Party of China to hand-pick all the candidates in the election for Chief Executive. Hong Kong officials have called the sit-in protests “illegal” and have sent the police force to try and breakup the crowds. Chinese state media have condemned the protests and have warned that protesting and demonstrations “of such a large nature” often “end in death, injuries, or imprisonment", warning others to avoid them. A decision on the electoral reforms is expected to be pivotal to the strength of the suffragette movement in Hong Kong, which will likely come in late September. 



Pope Francis waves to crowd in St. Peters square (Reuters)


Pope Francis Says Parents Should Accept Gay Children


(Vatican City) In an interview, following up on a synod, Pope Francis delivered what many have described as a remarkable answer when asked his opinion on parents not being accepting of homosexual children due to their religious beliefs. “We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,” Pope Francis told La Nacion in an interview, “if these adolescents accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge? We must stand by them.”


Some conservative Catholics have already begun to distance themselves from the synod and the Pope’s remarks, saying it is “evolving” and “a work in progress.” In any case, the remarks by the Pope are certain to cause discussion within the Catholic Church and among leaders in the Church. The very act of homosexuality remains illegal in various countries across the world, with Russia – population 140 million – recently proposing making promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality illegal in the country. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, according to Vatican figures, giving some hope to LGBT activists that Pope Francis’ comments will make an impact and change minds. 


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Abdullah Abdullah speaks to reporters before election results roll in (Associated Press)


Abdullah Abdullah Wins Afghanistan Presidential Election


(Kabul) - Abdullah Abdullah has won the Afghanistan Presidential election with 54% of the vote in the nation's second run-off. The election has been surrounded by controversy and fear of Taliban attacks on polling stations and campaign workers. Security was ramped up during campaign stops and on polling stations and both votes "happened with only one minor incident" according to officials in the country. Ashraf Ghani, the leading opponent of Abdullah Abdullah, has conceded the election. Privately, however, his supporters say they believe there was "widespread fraud" on behalf of Abdullah Abdullah and his supporters, particularly in counterfeiting votes. The campaign of the new President has swiftly denied the accusations, calling it "a standard tactic to delegitimize our system." The election will likely have major consequences in Afghanistan and the U.S. strategy in the country. Abdullah Abdullah has supported 'forcing' the Taliban to negotiate with the government in the past, a policy which the U.S. has been apprehensive to embrace. 


It is unknown if President Abdullah will take the office peacefully and without any challenges. President Karzai is expected to transfer over power at the beginning of the year, ending his two-terms in office. Challenges to the legitimacy of the election thus far have not been answered by UN officials, but sources say they are "being taken seriously." The election results are "certified" according to the Abdullah campaign. Though official certification must pass the muster of the United States, a major purveyor in democratic elections in Afghanistan, as well as the United Nations Election Commission.



Israel has fired rockets at protests in Gaza following Israeli soldiers deaths (Associated Press)


Israel Announces Operation in Gaza Following Hamas Attack


(Tel Aviv) - The Israeli Armed Forces have begun 'major targeted strikes' on the Gaza Strip, according to a statement released from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The operation began after a major attack on Israeli soldiers in the Alon Shvut settlement, a controversial settlement held by Israel in Palestine territory. Hamas militants immediately began rocket fire against Israel following the Israeli strikes, with Israel retaliating further with each rocket that reached its cities. The statement made by Netanyahu left out many details concerning the operation -- such as its main goals or intention or length -- but did point the finger at others for their responsibility in the conflict happening to begin with. "Iran, a known supporter of Hamas, has a hand in this conflict," the Prime Minister said, "those who finance these terrorist organizations have a hand in this conflict." He would go on to call for Hamas to "immediately cease attacks against Israeli Armed Forces and disarm." 


Civilians in Gaza are already seeing the effects of the conflict. Residents in northern Gaza have been seeking shelter in their homes, sending out frantic messages to family members about their well-being. One concerned resident called it "a daily fear, you hope to wake up as if it was just a nightmare and not reality." Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, had harsh words for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; "we are ready to confront Israel and defend ourselves with all of our might," he said in a released statement. Protests have began in Palestine against the Israeli operation, and the protests have only grown in size over the past few days. "We will risk our lives to send our message," one of the protesters said, lacing up his boots to begin marching with a group of his brothers. The United Nations is expected to discuss the situation in Gaza in its upcoming meeting in New York in January. 



Putin greets North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un in Moscow (Foreign Policy)


Kim Jong-Un Meets Putin in Moscow 


(Moscow) - As his father did in 2002 and 2011, Kim Jong-Un -- the young North Korean dictator -- visited Russia and was greeted by President Vladmir Putin in a showing of pageantry and pomp and circumstance rolled out by the Kremlin. The meeting lasted "between one or two hours" according to a statement by the Kremlin and "touched on a wide breadth of issues, including a closer partnership economically." The Russian government also made it clear that they intended to ramp up food aid efforts to North Korea amid a massive food crisis in the country which has been of high concern to the Human Rights Commission this past year. Foreign policy analysts were quite interested in the state visit by Kim Jong-Un, as it is his first, and the intrigue grew as Vladmir Putin pulled out all the steps of formality for the North Korean leader.


"The reason of this visit is likely to shore up Russian involvement in the affairs on the Korean peninsula," Dr. Jacob Olliver, PhD, professor of International Relations as George Washington University. "It is clear that Russia wants a more clear sphere of influence in North Korea," he said, "while also perhaps trying to give themselves a leg-up on South Korea in their upcoming summit which is much more likely to spur some actual economic agreements." While this is only speculation in terms of Vladmir Putin's intentions, the summit has given Kim Jong-Un a sense of mainstream relevance in international affairs and has only caused suspicion and speculation behind the true intention of the meeting. The European Union has condemned the North Korean leader and the hermit government for their negligence of the North Korean people and the food crisis as has the United States. Neither, however, have announced any intention to increase food aid outside of normal levels. 

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Syria Stuck in Stalemate

UNICEF Report: 500,000 Dead over Six Years 



     WASHINGTON D.C. -- The civil war in Syria continues to drag on as the death toll climbs to new heights. UNICEF released a new report this morning estimating casualties had soared to over half of a million since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. News from the country remains grim as neither the Assad regime or the numerous rebel factions have been able to gain a foothold or make significant ground. “Neither side is any closer to winning today than they were a year ago,” said BBC international affairs correspondent Alfred Bingham.


The dynamics of the war are clear. The Assad regime has the upper hand via the skies, but is struggling on the ground, ultimately failing to make the most of their aerial advantage. The rebels are dug in, but the constant pounding from the Syrian Armed Forces and lack of any sort of Air Force has dragged down morale and desolated towns and communities. The Kurds meanwhile are holding their territory quite steadily but are handicapped by the lack of international support and he controversy over their territorial rights in both Syria and Turkey. “The real question here is what will break first?” declared foreign affairs expert Doug Grantham. “Will the rebels and Syrian people crack under the constant barrage from the skies? Or can the opposition create a cohesive strategy and accrue the resources necessary to finally put the Assad regime on its heels?”


But perhaps most tragic of all in the midst of the conflict is the suffering of the Syrian people. Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their communities for safer territory with many attempting to escape across the Turkish-Syrian border. While numerous nations are providing humanitarian assistance, the United Nations estimates further resources are necessary to alleviate the immediate needs and concerns of the Syrian people. Ultimately, Syria remains a battleground and a country stuck in the throes of a seemingly never ending conflict. 





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U.S. Aid Arrives in Syria



      NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- U.S. foreign aid has begun to arrive in the war torn country of Syria. Humanitarian aid was reportedly brought across the Jordanian-Syrian banner over the past two weeks and is being distributed at a central location in the opposition controlled city of Daraa in southwest Syria. A spokesman for the State Department revealed $3.5 billion had been arranged from the foreign aid budget to assist in providing for the suffering Syrian people’s immediate needs. The money, according to State Department officials is being used for providing medical care, food, and shelter for the millions of displaced Syrians who are fleeing the heavily bombarded warzones. All humanitarian goods are reportedly being flown in to Amman, Jordan, where it is then being then transported to the Syrian border and handed over select groups of the opposition for distribution. Many eyewitnesses on the ground also report refugee camps and tents being set up to provide some form of housing for the time being for the families. “What we are seeing in towns like Daraa, As Suwayda, and other areas controlled by the rebels in the south is impressive,” said foreign policy correspondent Elena Moreno. “Most of the immediate needs of these people are being met in the southern region of the country.”


However, despite the gains made in the south, there are numerous reports that little to none of the foreign aid is reaching the cities in the northern region of the country with most Kurdish communities completely abandoned. While their southern compatriots have received a considerable amount of humanitarian aid, sources on the ground in cities along Syria’s northern border report no U.S. foreign aid has arrived at those locations. The swelling number of refugees displaced by the fighting, particularly in the Kurdish controlled northern territory, has led many to flee across the border with Turkey illegally. A report out of the Turkish city of Ceylanpinar revealed over three thousand Kurds have been apprehended trying to cross the border in just the last month. President Recep Erdogan of Turkey has condemned the migration of refugees across the border and is reportedly weighing plans to crack down on the increasing number of Kurdish immigrants attempting to enter his country. President Erdogan also accused U.S. President Harrison LeClavers of creating the problem by only giving aid to rebels in the south, though most experts agree it is debatable at best whether Erdogan himself would have permitted such foreign aid get transported through his own country considering the current state of U.S. and Turkish relations.


In the meantime, while the war rages on, those living in southern Syria are finally having some of their needs met by the State Department. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres praised the United States action, calling it “a much needed life preserver thrown to the millions of Syrians who are drowning in the throes of this better conflict.”

According to officials in Downing Street and in Paris, the United Kingdom and France are reportedly working on arranging a joint humanitarian relief package in the wake of the United States actions. Time will tell just how much this aid will help and what course the war will take next.

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Crackdown on Kurds in Turkey

Erdogan Under Fire for Mass Arrests


NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- With the number of Syrian refugees pouring over the Turkish border continues to rise, President Recep Erdogan of Turkey has announced a no-tolerance policy against these refugees. Yet while President Erdogan has publicly cited national security, many are beginning to fear that the Turkish leader is using the crisis to crack down on the Kurdish population. Over the last two weeks, nearly a thousand Kurds across southeast Turkey were arrested and detained by the General Directorate of Security for unlawful entry. Most notable were the sudden arrests of numerous prominent Kurdish leaders including the Mayor of Batman, Nejdet Adalay.


President Erdogan addressed the matter publicly this evening during a speech. “Turkey will not tolerate those who would try to carry over their conflict onto our soil. Nor will we permit those traitors within our own ranks attempt providing assistance and a hiding place to break the law and undermine the foundations of our democracy,” declared Erdogan.

However, Kurds across the Middle East have responded furiously to the arrests. “The Erdogan regime is doing nothing more than crumbling up the human rights of our people and tossing them aside,” said Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan. “What is happening is the systemic assault on the Kurdish people. This will not be tolerated by any Kurds anywhere.”


As of today, arrests are still continuing, though there are conflicting reports of possible pressure on Erdogan by the State Department to halt the policies. We will keep updated on this as more information comes in.

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U.S. Strikes Syria
LeClavers Orders Airstrikes against Assad Regime

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- President Harrison LeClavers announced the United States has launched airstrikes against the Syrian government and the Assad regime. In a nationally televised address in the aftermath of reports of explosions at several Syrian military bases, LeClavers declared the U.S. would be increasing its intervention and efforts in the conflict. “The United States has long been involved in the fight in Syria against ISIS, and similar groups. However, we cannot win that fight without addressing the real cause- the instability caused by Bashar Al-Assad remaining in power. He must be shown the door,” said LeClavers. 


According to sources in the Pentagon, more than a dozen military bases, primarily airfields, were targeted in the airstrikes. The strikes targeted aircraft hangers, runways, radar installations, and Syrian air force personnel. Early reports indicate significant damage was inflicted on the Assad regime’s air force capacity and ability to wage war from the skies. “Numerous hangers were smoked,” said one high-ranking member in the Defense Department. “And several runways smoked. The threat from the air is far from eliminated, but it’s more than fair to say this was a significant blow against the Assad regime.”

International reaction to the airstrikes has been mixed. British Prime Minister Theresa May lauded the airstrikes, declaring it to be “a clear message from the free world that people of Syria deserve a choice in their future going forward.” 

However, while other NATO allies including France and Germany also voiced their support for the airstrikes, the beleaguered Turkish government announced its opposition to the strikes. “These attacks were a dangerous, illegal, and highly destabilizing move by the United States,” declared Turkish President Recep Erdogan. 
But perhaps most vocal of all was President Vladimir of Russia. “The Russian Federation condemns these attacks on the sovereign state of Syria. There must be severe repercussions on the United States for once again violating international law by waging war in the middle east.”

According to public polling, Americans have been divided on intervening in Syria for some time. 39% support the airstrikes while 45% oppose the decision by the LeClavers Administration to intervene with Republicans generally favoring intervention with Democrats opposing. How much that will change in the coming days is yet to be seen as the world reacts to these new developments.  

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